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GPs surveyed on use of online and telephone consultations

Primary care researchers have launched a survey of UK practices to find out how many GPs are offering email, video or telephone consultations, as part of a project aimed at learning from GPs’ experiences of alternatives to face-to-face consultation and developing guidance on how best to implement them.

The survey takes less than five minutes to complete and asks how often GPs currently offer email, internet video or bookable telephone consultations and whether they plan to use them in the future.

The academics, led by Professor Chris Salisbury at the University of Bristol, said that while NHS England and the Scottish Government are urging practices to adopt alternative forms of consultations, there is still little evidence so far on how and when they are useful.

Once they have the survey data, the team intends to carry out more in-depth research with eight practices with varied levels of experience in using online or telephone consultations, and come up with resources and recommendations for GPs.

The researchers said: ‘Based on our findings we will develop a website resource and recommendations for general practices about the most promising applications of alternatives to face-to-face consultations for different patient groups, for different purposes and in different practice contexts.

‘These recommendations will be developed by the research team and optimised and validated at a workshop involving patients, GPs and other stakeholders.’

Readers' comments (8)

  • The method of communication isn't the issue - it's lack of time. 10 minutes Skyping a patient still takes 10 minutes and is much less useful than 10 minutes being able to talk to and examine someone.

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  • Harry Longman

    Good point. Take up of alternative modes of consult can only be sustainable if it saves GP time - and it will only get patient participation if it saves patient time, or has other patient benefits.

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  • I can't imagine anything worse than an email consultation with a patient.

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  • Embarrassing bodies?

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  • Harry Longman

    An "email consultation" can't be right, as email is insecure and it seems a stretch to call it a "consultation". But can information be transferred between patient and doctor with the benefits of remote, asynchronous communication? Certainly. It needs to be secure and structured, and help both parties.

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  • I would prefer Skype to telephone consultations as at least you can eyeball the pt which can tell you a lot. I don not see why people have a problem with Skype/Video Consultations yet are happy to do telephone consultations. Hell no to email consultations.

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  • The Good Idea Fairy is alive and well. Making it easier to access doctors simply feeds the demand to access doctors. we need to limit patient demand, not pander to it.

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  • Many GPs have strong views about 'email-type' or 'skype' consultations, as well as greater use of the phone. But the fact is that there is a strong push for GPs to provide them. So we need to understand clearly and highlight what the possible benefits and disadvantages might be, and which forms of communication might be beneficial if used in the right way (and also how to avoid some of the obvious potential problems). That's why are doing the research.

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